Thursday, May 14, 2009

Allowing the Children To "Run The Show" (Part 2)


Disrespect can be shown in many different ways such as ignoring, speaking or behaving in an aggressive manner, being rude, mocking, using inappropriate body language, blatant disobedience and so on.   

Although no-one appreciates being treated with disrespect, step-parents - especially if the culprits are their stepchildren – find it particularly offensive, hurtful and distressing.   

Whilst parents in a nuclear family usually see disrespectful behaviour in a more balanced light, perhaps as a ‘stage’ the child is going through, maybe as something that’s been picked up at school or as a common by-product of adolescence, a stepparent usually takes such behaviour very personally.

Children, being experiential creatures, naturally try all kinds of behaviours and push an adult’s boundaries just to see what might happen next. If they are allowed to get away with rudeness, aggression, mocking or any other disrespectful behaviour, they will not consider it as being inappropriate. If, however, their biological parent pulls them up right there and then, gives them an age-appropriate explanation as to why their behaviour is unacceptable and makes them aware of the consequences to follow this type of behaviour should it occur in the future, children usually very quickly learn the value and importance of respect. 

Please remember that children are experiential learners and learn far more from what they see, feel and experience than from what they are told. If they are treated with respect, they will learn to treat others with respect also. 

IMPORTANT: It's the job of the biological parent (your partner if you are the stepmum) to consistently remind their children of the necessity of behaving appropriately towards you. Bio parents can find this to be a particular challenge, especially if they only see their children on weekends. Often laden with feelings of guilt for having caused their children's pain, they now feel overprotective of their offspring and show them far greater leniency than necessary, helpful or healthy. This is one of the most frequent bug-bears step-parents bring to counselling. Whilst this is not always the case, I have often found that once the bio parent becomes aware of the huge benefits to their children of having a well thought-out and well-boundaried approach with them, they will be far more inclined to do the necessary.  This is even more critical in cases where children are negatively influenced by the ex partner or where their other home is a chaotic and boundary-less one. Like flowers cannot bloom fully in an unkept garden, children will not develop well in boundaryles environment. Bio parents who are too afraid of losing their children's affection to enforce their parental rights and responsibilities do not make good partners!  

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